Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.
I will have you know, ladies and gentleman, that my life–the life of the professional knitter–is not the yarn-addled conga line of joy you perhaps envision. True, I am not digging ditches in the pouring rain. Nor am I a person who needs to worry when the database, any database, goes down. I do not have to attend office parties. And my inbox is full of wool.
On the other hand, difficult as it may be to imagine, knitting can become a burden when deadlines forbid you to put it down. Your eyes water, your fingers ache; but somewhere there is an impatient editor tapping out the letters A-R-E-Y-O-U-F-I-N-I-S-H-E-D-Y-E-T on a keyboard and the only answer that will satisfy her is Y-E-S.
Any form of needlework performed under duress is unhealthy for the body and mind, and leads to unfortunate lifestyle choices. I have a friend whose gorgeous designs you would recognize if you read any of the major knitting publications; possibly you have turned out at least one of her shawls or sweaters yourself. She admits that three-quarters of them come to fruition while she floats, sleepless, in an altered state induced by extreme consumption of Mallowmars and diet cola.
I won’t tell you who she is; but when her Instagram feed breaks out in exclamation points and hashtags like #inspiration and #iloveknitting and #yarnyarnyarn, you can bet that rock bottom has been achieved.
Much as I wish I could tell you this never happens to me, it does. There’s a scene in the (ghastly) 2015 film Victor Frankenstein in which the doctor’s first experiment begins to run around the room attacking everyone and knocking over the furniture. My day is often like that; only instead of a misbegotten chimpanzee homunculus, it’s half a mitten.
Perhaps you think I am being overly dramatic. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I should lay off the Mallowmars for a little while.
A few weeks ago I fell into the pit while trying (and failing) to get a pile of writing, drawing, and pattern writing finished before a teaching trip. The knitting was complete, and the writing and drawing well in hand, but I had been avoiding the pattern writing for far too long. There’s a good reason for that. I hate pattern writing.
I don’t mean I hate designing patterns. I love that. What I hate is pattern writing, which any designer will tell you is different skill entirely. You either have the knack for it, or you don’t, and I don’t. I do it, but I do it the way that Victorian schoolchildren swallowed doses of castor oil: under threat of a whack from nanny, and grimacing the entire time.
When the evil hour could be postponed no longer, I sat down bleary-eyed with the finished sample and my folder full of notes. I began laying out the first draft, as is my custom, in a grid-paper notebook with a trusty mechanical pencil. I try to sweeten the bitter pill by making myself comfortable, in a good chair, with a little treat at hand. The dog, bless her, dragged her cushion over so she could lend moral support. She knows.
About two hours later, I woke up.
My paper was full of writing. Full to the margins. There was the name of the pattern at the top. Then the materials list. The gauge specifications. Special techniques. The first few steps. Repeat from asterisk.
Well, it appeared that I had fallen asleep. Yet kept on writing. Scribble, scribble. More asterisks. Something about wrap-and-turn. The handwriting started to droop, and grow faint. The letters piled atop one another, then with a jerk skipped a few lines.
And then something something working yarn, and then I begin declining the irregular Latin verb for “to go” (eo, ire, ivi, itum) and then there is a tiny, tiny sketch of what may be a mitten thumb or it may be a kitty cat. Or perhaps I was following Doctor Frankenstein’s example and it’s a bit of both.
Part of the paper was damp with what was clearly my own drool.
I asked the dog how long I’d been sleep-writing. She had no idea.
You may be wondering if the pattern is finished yet.
Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned. Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com